Beth Ann Dillon was the featured speaker at the Binghamton Lenten Retreat. (Photo courtesy St. Mary of the Lake, Skaneateles)

By Nancy Huffaker and Dawn Dimock

After two years of COVID restrictions that prevented them from offering their annual Lenten retreats, the Women’s Commission sponsored two retreats in 2022 that drew record crowds. More than 150 women from across the diocese participated in the retreats held simultaneously on Saturday, April 2. Both events focused on the theme “Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry.”

The Syracuse-area retreat was held at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It started with the rosary, with decades in Polish and Italian, led by seminarian Pawel Zmija. The rosary was followed by a meditation on the Sorrowful Mysteries in fulfillment of our Blessed Mother’s request at Fatima for First Saturdays.

The principal celebrant for Mass was Father Andrew E. Baranski, rector of the basilica, and the concelebrant was Father Brendan Foley, parochial vicar at Holy Cross Church in DeWitt. Following a catered breakfast, the women listened to a reflection by Father Foley. He shared insights from his own Lenten journey with the book Searching for and Maintaining Peace, and explained that “the saints have paved the way” as examples of how to trust in the Lord. “Our mother Mary, who was the best student of Jesus, who was the best teacher, demonstrated a posture of faith as she stood beneath the cross with true confidence and surrender,” said Father Foley.

The retreat for the greater Binghamton area was held in the beautifully renovated St. James Church in Johnson City and followed a similar format. The morning of spiritual renewal and encouragement began with the recitation of the rosary, led by young ladies from the diocese, and was followed by Mass celebrated by Father Charles Opondo-Owora, pastor of St. James.

Afterward, the women were treated to a delicious breakfast cooked by volunteers from Knights of Columbus Council 1839, Endicott, and enjoyed a time of fellowship. The speaker, Sister Beth Ann Dillon, director of Faith Formation and Catechesis at St. Mary of the Lake in Skaneateles, offered advice on how to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit we receive in Confirmation to live out Padre Pio’s motto, “Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry.”

Both retreats included opportunities for confession and both ended with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Adoration and Benediction.

The day-long annual Syracuse Catholic Women’s Conference is scheduled to return to the Oncenter on Oct. 15 this year, after a cancellation in 2020 and a series of mini-conferences in 2021. Check for details at

Nancy Huffaker and Dawn Dimock are members of the Commission on Women in Church and in Society.

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